Arizona commit Jonah Coleman hopes to use scholarship to help himself, family

All-purpose back Jonah Coleman is part of the Wildcats’ 2022 class.

The first college football game Jonah Coleman ever attended was the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’ Stadium in Santa Clara, California, when the Arizona Wildcats — led by star quarterback Khalil Tate — fell to the Purdue Boilermakers.

Coleman was an eighth-grader at the time. Little did he know that his football-playing journey would connect him to the UA again.

Three head coaches — and not a single bowl appearance — later, the UA landed Coleman, the 5-foot-9-inch, 205-pound all-purpose running back, for its 2022 recruiting class. Coleman selected the Wildcats over offers from Arizona State, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State and Tennessee, among others.

He is one of five prospects committed to the Wildcats’ ’22 class, along with Chandler Hamilton High School offensive lineman Grayson Stovall; Long Beach, California, cornerback Tacario Davis; Maine defensive end Jermaine Wiggins Jr. and Scottsdale Saguaro outside linebacker Tristan Monday.

The recruiting service rates Coleman as the second-best all-purpose running back nationally and the 34th-best prospect in California for 2022. In his first two seasons at Lincoln High School in Stockton, Coleman rushed for 2,132 yards and scored 46 touchdowns.

Like many before him, Coleman sees football as a ticket out. Growing up with eight siblings — three older sisters, two younger sisters, two older brothers and one older brother — in hardscrabble Stockton, Coleman’s drive takes Jedd Fisch’s newly-popular team slogan, “It’s Personal,” to serious heights.

Coleman plans to make it personal by improving life for himself and his family.

“I hate seeing my family struggle and go through the things they go through,” he said. “I feel like if I make it and get them away from that, then my mom or pops wouldn’t have to borrow money from anybody or wait until the first (of the month) for checks, I could just help them right then and there.

“I want to give them their dream cars, dream house and just get them out of here. It’s too dangerous out here. I know it’s dangerous everywhere, but we’re going to get them somewhere OK. My family is the reason why I’m like this.”

Coleman spoke to the Star about his commitment to Arizona, family background and what led him to play football:

Why did you choose Arizona over the other schools on your list?

A: “Some of the colleges don’t really fit the environment that I was born into. I really like the heat and things like that — the sun. With the academics and stuff, they give a lot of athletes help when it comes to academics, and I’m one of those students that needs a lot of help and asks a lot of questions. The coaches are on the come-up, and there’s some really great guys on the coaching staff, and we have a great relationship.

“I was kind of leaning towards Oregon State, but they ended up getting a new running backs coach (former UA running backs coach A.J. Seward), so things changed and I had a change of mind. Then I met Coach (Scottie) Graham, and we just started building up and he’s a very straight-forward guy. I love him.”

When did the UA become serious about your recruitment, and how has your relationship with Graham evolved in just a short time?

A: “We didn’t always talk about football. He wanted to know my family and get to know me, so everything wasn’t always about football. He wanted to know about me as a person, my life, what I do, my hobbies, what my pops likes to do, what my mom likes to do. He got on FaceTime with my mom, and he’s the first coach to ever do that. He’s also been on FaceTime with my pops too, so things like that.”

What’s home like?

A: “I come from a family that is probably less fortunate, so everything that we’ve ever gotten we had to work for it, my pops taught me that at a young age. I was surrounded by a lot of bad things at a young age, and my pops had to take me away and kept me on the right track, because I could’ve easily veered off and been in the streets doing things I wasn’t supposed to do, but my pops took me out of that life.

“He also bettered himself as a person, because he was also affiliated with all of that. I was living with my mom at first and … things at home were kind of rough for me. … That’s really it. … My dad used to be affiliated with gangs, but then he had sons and daughters to look after, so he had to change himself as a person and get out of that life. He wanted us to be better than him. …

“(Stockton) is probably one of the most violent cities in the world. … There’s some good parts of Stockton, but there’s mainly bad things going on in Stockton right now, that’s why I’m graduating early and trying to get out of here as quickly as possible.”

How did you start playing football, and did the sport help you avoid a baneful environment?

A: “As a child, I always played football outside with friends, but I never really thought I was ever going to be a part of a team. … One day I was at my mom’s house, and I was going to the park with some family members, and I had just seen some kids doing push-ups. I was always a curious kid, so I went over there and started doing push-ups with them. They ended up doing roll call and it was a football team, but I didn’t know and I wasn’t on the roster. They were like, ‘Well if you want to play football, you have to sign up and join the team.’ The next day, I shocked my pops and said, ‘I want to play football, can you sign me up?’ That’s basically when my career started and when my dad started to move differently in his life.”

What are the best traits of your game?

A: “My balance and explosiveness and power that I bring; I can’t be tackled by one man, you’re gonna need at least two to bring me down. I can also catch the ball and I’m quick for my size.”

Do you emulate your game after a certain running back?

A: “I’m kind of like a Saquon Barkley or an Alvin Kamara, because Alvin Kamara can catch the ball, and Saquon Barkley is athletic, strong, powerful and things like that, so I feel like I’m a combination of both.”

How would you describe yourself as a person, and what are your hobbies?

A: “I’m a very goofy, bright person when I’m not playing football. I’m usually with family, playing a game or hanging out with friends or doing schoolwork. I always keep myself busy. I can’t really sleep during the day, I don’t take naps or anything. I’m very energetic and I love the game. I’m very competitive and hate losing in anything, it doesn’t matter what it is.

“If I’m going up against you, I’m trying to beat you. If you beat me, I’m going to keep going at you until I win. … I’m a give-back person, so I want to better my community and help kids get to where I am and show them that there’s a path and a way out.”

Where does your motivation to leave Stockton stem from?

A: “Really just my past. I’ve been through so much and I have so much weight on my shoulders. I have a whole family behind me that’s depending on me, and I just feel like I got to make it for them.”